I’m doing a History MA … but what NEXT?

Consider which of the following 3 statements best describes you:

  1. I am passionate about History, I have started an MA with a view to progressing on to a PhD and a career in Academia
  2. After my MA I would like to find a job within ‘History’ and use the knowledge that my MA will give me
  3. I enjoy History – the process, the skillset & the discipline of History, but I do not particularly see myself working within History after I finish my Masters

Natural History Museum, Vienna, Austria

So, if a PhD is your goal, talk to Academics and current PhD students… how did they make their choices & secure their place. Start to explore possible research areas. Identify universities that excel in research in your area of interest, investigate their opportunities and possible supervisors, as well as application deadlines.  Through your History in Action module, the School of History can provide further support and advice on applying for a PhD.

If you think you want to work within ‘History’ in some way, consider what that might look like…

  • Do you want to use the specific expertise of your Masters’ modules… if so, what types of organisations would be interested that expertise? For example if you are studying ‘Anti-semitism and The Holocaust’ or ‘Modern Jewish History and Culture’, working for the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust or The Jewish Museum would be an example of direct relevance.  Identify organisations that interest you and see if you can get work experience/work shadowing there, in order to help you understand what kind of jobs are available and how you might fit in.
  • Or, if you want to work in a context that is just broadly historical… what does that mean to you… Museums? Heritage?  Such organisations employ people in all kinds of jobs… do you want to work in curation or exhibitions so that you are directly involved in the exhibits?  Or actually, would it be enough to simply be in that historical/cultural environment and you would be happy to work for example in marketing, development, events etc.?  Again… the best way to find out what roles exist and might suit you, is to get experience… which in this sector, is usually by volunteering.

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Master’s: Balancing work and studies

My name is Natasha and I am currently undertaking MA History – Medieval and Renaissance pathway at QMUL; I also took my BA in Medieval History at QMUL. Additionally, I work part-time for Careers & Enterprise as an Employer Engagement Assistant. Below are my thoughts on working and studying part-time.

Balancing work & studies

After some deliberating, I decided to study for my Master’s degree part-time. I knew that I had to find a way to support myself financially, particularly if I wanted to stay living in London; but I knew that studying full-time and working part-time wasn’t the best idea. I did not see any point in rushing through my studies and not giving it my all as working would inevitably be an obstacle – and even now, balancing work and studies is difficult. It is very important to plan your time wisely: make sure that on the days that you aren’t working, you have a study plan for what you want – and need – to achieve on those days when you are focusing solely on your Master’s. Sometimes this isn’t easy, particularly if you cannot find the motivation, or you have a day where you turn up no results – but persevere and take the time to re-charge your batteries, it is certainly easy to over-do things.


Which leads me nicely to the challenges. Trust me when I tell you that your work/life balance will take a real dip. When I am not working, I use my ‘free’ time to study, and this means that I find it hard to stay in contact and socialise with friends and family. This really is something to be aware of as you, as well as them, will feel isolated. But, by planning your time effectively, it is entirely possible to give yourself a few hours off to let your hair down – and this is essential, particularly for your own well-being.

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Student story: Work experience in the heritage sector

jessJess Weeks, 3rd year History student

Every professional I have ever spoken to in the museum and heritage sector has told me experience is key. Unfortunately, it took me until my third year to understand how serious they were and how many resources were available to me at Queen Mary. One day I finally went to the careers office as I was struggling with making the decision between applying for an MA or just going straight into the world of work. They very clearly told me that work experience should be my top priority during my studies; my CV was limited and needed more to it, and the work experience would highlight the different fields and different jobs available within the sector.

I started looking at all the different companies and museums in the sector, paying particular attention to the Historic Royal Palaces because I love the Tower of London and Hampton Court. I noticed on their website they recruited volunteers and had apprenticeship and internship opportunities. Although none of these opportunities were advertised at the time I wanted to make a start and therefore I emailed all the people listed on the ‘contact us’ page because I was taught that there’s no harm in trying. I received a reply pretty quickly saying that there weren’t any opportunities. However, after a few weeks I received an email asking whether I would like to come in for an interview for the Learning and Engagement team of volunteers.

The interview was not what I had expected at all. It was much more informal and was primarily the team discussing their individual roles, what is expected of us as volunteers and what events we will be assisting with. We had to introduce the person sitting next to us and that was pretty much our talking done! We were then asked to select which palace was our preferred choice of work, I chose Kensington Palace and the Tower of London, and then that was it- we were officially HRP volunteers.

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